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New-look Pirates ward off coastal storms

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Fans watch from the stands during the 36th annual East Carolina spring football game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.


By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The hope is that these April showers will bring September flowers.

The East Carolina football team and first-year head coach Mike Houston braced for storms all day Saturday before and during the 36th annual spring Purple-Gold Game inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Aside from one crowd-scattering cloudburst late in the first half, however, there was no major Mother Nature interference.

It allowed, for the most part, for Houston and his staff to get a full-game evaluation of the team he is trying to rebuild into a winner after four losing seasons before he arrived in December. Saturday marked the end of spring drills, meaning the next competitive football in the stadium will be the Pirates’ home-opener against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 7, one week after the Houston era with the Pirates officially begins at rival N.C. State.

“The football gods love us, so they let us get it in,” Houston said after the Pirates staged the first public spring scrimmage of his coaching tenure with no delays and finished in less than two hours. “I was really glad, and to have the crowd that we had, expecting the weather and obviously that probably kept some people away, but we obviously have a lot of loyal fans that showed up anyway. I was really glad we were able to get it in for them.”

Heavy rain on and off through the morning hours leading up to the 1:30 p.m. kickoff also drastically dialed down the usual tailgating and other pregame festivities.

With no precipitation at kickoff, a decent contingent of fans gathered in the north grandstand, and many stayed for the duration after the showers near halftime mostly tapered.

Dangerous weather and Purple-Gold games are not strangers, with a couple of games in recent years being delayed with the stadium evacuated during intense lightning.

According to Houston, the impending weather in such situations is tricky because while playing in lightning is not possible, playing in adverse conditions is a standard.

“There’s no telling what kind of situation we’re going to find ourselves in this fall,” said Houston, who was hired from James Madison to replace Scottie Montgomery after three straight 3-9 seasons. “We talked about that again in our team meeting this morning. The teams that we have had in the past, we’ve thrived late in the year in bad weather conditions because of our mental toughness, and we’ve got to develop that here.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.


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